Twenty four-year-old Saina Nehwal won her first Super Series title in 20 months at the Australian Open where she beat left-handed Spaniard Carolina Marin in the final. En-route to the title, her biggest win was over World No 2 Wang Shixian of China in the semi-final.
The last time Nehwal reached the final of a major event was the French Open in 2012. The Australian Open crown was her seventh Super Series title: the last two came in 2012 when she won the Indonesian and Danish Super Series titles. Nehwal may move up to the seventh position now in world rankings, still way behind the World No 2 spot she held a few years ago.
But that does not matter at all. What is important is that the shuttler is back to her winning ways and that she is back on track to again grab the limelight on the international circuit.
Saina Nehwal. Pic/Getty Images.
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Earlier this year she won the Indian GP Gold in Lucknow and played extremely well at the Uber Cup in New Delhi. Now her scintillating form in the Australian Open Super Series tournament will ensure that she wins more crowns in the coming months.
As national coach Pullela Gopichand said: “Saina has worked really hard over the past few months. Many critics wrote her off, as she suffered from a title drought. But we were working to a plan. She needed to be more aggressive in her matches, a step faster and quick at the net. Against Intanon, she was clearly a far better player. This year we have the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and a very tough Asian Games. I am sure she will be primed to give her best in all these major events.”
There is no doubt now that she will go to the CWG in Glasgow as a hot favourite to retain her title. Her only opposition will come in the form of compatriot PV Sindhu, the tall teenage sensation — also coached by Gopichand. But most importantly for her, she will be the one to watch out for at the World Championships and Asian Games too.
With age still on her side and her new found confidence, she may well catapult herself to World No 1 spot.
The author is a former India player